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Legend of the Grand Mesa Thunderbird’s near Grand Junction Colorado

 

Legend of the Grand Mesa Thunderbird’s

By Seth Anderson founder of Loki Gear located in Grand Junction Colorado!

 

I love Grand Junction and the western half of Colorado. I grew up here

and my appreciation grows daily. Its “regular & realness” of

people and sublime flat top edge and steep curtain walls cradle us all

and inspire me daily. As we grow in population, I hope the Grand

Valley will mature in culture and carry a greater appreciation for the

landscape and the outdoor joy in our midst.

 

The Thunderbird Hieroglyph on the Grand Mesa

Caught my eye and curiosity as early as 2nd grade at the inaugural year of Grand Mesa

Elementary School where Thunderbird’s were our mascot, I saw the bird

like feature but no one else noticed it or knew what it was. The

Thunderbird can be seen by looking straight up from “F Road” or

Patterson Road traveling east toward Grand Mesa in Grand Junction. Have a look if you

can before reading this tale…

The T-Bird on the Grand Mesa Taken by Seth with his cell phone from a plane!

The T-Bird on the Grand Mesa Taken by Seth with his cell phone from a plane!

 

I am going to share part of my life story  and a connection we all

can have with this land and to a greater cultural history of our Grand

Valley. This story relates to a feature on the Grand Mesa that looks

over the Grand Valley everyday. After reading this, I hope more of us will look back

at the Grand Mesa with a deeper sense of history and a feeling of how the

Ute natives looked at their world.

Starts with a fishing trip to the Grand Mesa.

When I was 16 I went fishing at Butts Lake on the Grand Mesa with two

of my closest friends. We watched huge cutthroat trout cruise the

shore and ignore our dangling lures… I grew bored. I scrambled

straight above the lake unwittingly discovering my favorite hiking

trail in Mesa County, the narrow ridge of Crag Crest. As I returned to

The Legend of the Grand Mesa T-Bird

The Legend of the Grand Mesa T-Bird

my friends on the rocky lake shore, we heard an eerie sound for

several minutes. The air seemed to vibrate like a whale song blown

through a continuously curving vacuum hose.

 

We looked at each other and said nothing as the air moaned and

vibrated. All was perfectly calm around us. We were unnerved. We

packed up our empty tackle and hurried down the trail for the car. On

the drive home we stopped at Alexander Lake Lodge for a soda and some

answers. We asked a gray haired man at the counter if he heard any

strange sounds or winds that day. He said nothing and handed over a

sheet of paper that told this story;

The Gran Mesa legend from the Ute Indians

The Ute Indians local to the area believed that great Thunderbird’s (or

giant eagles) ruled the skies and lived atop the Grand Mesa. One day

the great birds attacked the Ute village and carried children to their

nest on the Mesa’s edge. The fiercest warrior disguised himself as a

tree and climbed the Mesa to their nest. He discovered that the

children had been eaten. In vengeance the warrior threw the

Thunderbird eggs over the Mesa’s edge to the valley below.

 

The Thunderbird’s returned to find an empty nest. They looked down to

find that their offspring had been swallowed by a giant serpent –

perhaps the serpent represents the Colorado River- in the valley. The

great birds screeched down lifted the great serpent high over the

Grand Mesa. In a raging storm the bird hurled electrified pieces to

the forest below, creating huge scars on the Mesa’s previously flat

top. The storm raged and the gouges were filled with sorrowful tears

from loss of their offspring, thus forming the many lakes of the Grand

Mesa.

 

One of the Ute names for the Grand Mesa roughly translates to “Land

of the departed spirits.” The Ute’s ritually suspended their dead

high in the trees for their spirits to be carried by winds into the

spirit world on the Mesa.

 

It is said that there are two strange winds that blow across the Mesa’s crest: One is the Thunderbirds screeching for their lost young,

and the other is from the Ute warrior calling for the tribes lost children. I’m not sure which one Chris, Ed and I heard, but my guess is the wail of the Thunderbirds.

 A Legend for All to See

All can see if they know where to look!

All can see if they know where to look!

We can lay eyes on the legend everyday from the Grand Valley. Just

below the north edge of the Mesa above Palisade there is a chalk

colored hieroglyph in the pines forming the shape of the great

Thunderbird. Below the feature is a slender chute through the trees

that is rarely visible. “F Road” aka Patterson Road points directly

toward the feature. The Ute legend says the Serpent Chute is the

height of ten lodge-pole pines. The legend tells that when the

Thunderbird grabs the serpent, it rains in the valley. I don’t

suggest that I believe this or any other myths. However I have seen

this very event occur. As my family returned from a long trip out

west, I saw the setting sun strike the Thunderbird and then light up

the snake on the west face of the Mesa. Just then it began to rain and

spread life giving rain across the valley.

 

Keep your eye out for the great Thunderbird -and perhaps a storm

foretelling light show- on the Grand Mesa above Grand Junction. Listen for the

winds of the moaning Ute warrior or the screech of the giant birds

when rambling among the lakes, forests and ridges on top of Grand Mesa.

Grand Mesa and the Grand Valley

I long for a more complete grasp of the Grand Valley’s history, but I

think this legend adds a cultural element that is currently missing in

our collective story in Grand Junction. I think we should all remember

the past and consider it’s importance; history’s lessons can yield a

brighter future for us all.  Seth Anderson

The serpent grabs for the Thunder Bird on the Grand Mesa.

The serpent grabs for the Thunder Birds tail on the Grand Mesa.

Let me know what you think on our Face Book Page!

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